July 19, 2016

Propaganda as News: Hungarian Film Diva Katalin Karady and Radio Free Europe

On April 27, 1961, the 20th edition of the popular weekly radio news program “Hear it Now” was heard on the CBS radio network and 173 affiliated radio stations. It was described as a “document for ear, based on the week’s news and the men and women who made it. All the voices and sounds you will hear are real and are presented as they were recorded in the heat and confusion of the world in crisis.”

The program’s narrator was famed reporter and news analyst Edward R. Murrow (1908 - 1965). The news program began with the latest update of military action in Korea. The program used actual recordings of persons in the news. The first segment began with news about the war in Korea. Then Murrow introduced the segment about Radio Free Europe:

Murrow: In Europe, a group of cold, hungry people continue to fight back in the Cold War, where final victory is as important as it is in Korea. Katalin Karady is a Hungarian motion picture star, a capable actress with an unusual singing voice. Six weeks ago, like most citizens of Budapest, she turned on her radio and heard this; (in Hungarian) “It is the Voice of Free Hungary” Radio Free Europe.

Murrow: This is Radio Free Europe: an independent propaganda weapon started by private citizens and operated by privately subscribed funds. One of Radio Free Europe’s most important functions is to tell those behind the Iron Curtain how they can escape. Miss Karady and other citizens with a radio, and the courage to tune us in, hear broadcasts like this one: (follows with detailed instructions in Hungarian accented English on how to get across the Iron Curtain.)

Murrow: Several weeks ago, Katalin Karady crossed the Hungarian border and was welcomed by Allied friends in Vienna. Now Radio Free Europe has another new star and another new weapon.

RFE Announcer (with Hungarian accent): Miss Karady got across the border safely. You can too, if you are careful. Here is Katalin Karady to sing for you (Katalin Karady sings).

Here is the broadcast, which includes RFE announcers speaking in Hungarian and English (giving instructions on how to cross the Iron Curtain) and an excerpt from a song by Katalin Karady:


A report about the meat shortage in Great Britain with the voice of Winston Churchill followed.

As we have seen in previous blog posts, the true sponsorship of Radio Free Europe was CIA and not "operated by privately subscribed funds" as Murrow stated. Also, Radio Free Europe did not broadcast in English, so the "news" about Katalin Karady was meant for the United States audience only. RFE was prohibited from propaganda activities in the US. One could easily make the case that this was domestic propaganda and not news.

The Free Europe Committee established a Committee on Press and Broadcasting in June 1949, Edward R. Murrow was one of the members of the advisory group of respected American journalists. On September 3, 1951, Murrow narrated the program that started the first Crusade for Freedom radio broadcast that featured future U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

From 1961 to 1964, Murrow was Director of the U.S. Information Agency, which oversaw the Voice of America. He died on April 27, 1965, at age 57.

Who was Katalin Karady?

Katalin (Catherina) (nee Kanczler) Karady, born December 8, 1910, was a well-known film actress and singer in Hungary before World War Two – appearing in over 20 films and on stage. She enjoyed a glamorous life in Budapest as an entertainment star. Reportedly the German Gestapo in April 1944 accused her of spying, arrested, imprisoned, and tortured her for 3 months in 1944. After the war ended and the Communist Party controlled Hungary, she was prevented from appearing in films. In 1949, all her films were banned and she was prevented from appeared on stage. She finally escaped Hungary on February 20, 1951, by crossing the border into Austria.  

Newspapers in the United States and elsewhere in the world reported on the Katalin Karady escape story, including these articles that appeared March 22, 1951:

SAFE IN THE U. S. ZONE Of AUSTRIA, after fleeing over the border from behind the Iron Curtain, Katalin Karady, known as "the Hungarian Rita Hayworth," and singer Oliver Lantos, smile happily upon reaching Salzburg. They traveled on foot for 40 miles, often risking their lives, to escape the Communist propaganda “hogwash" that is strangling all of the arts and everyday life" in their native land. 

FREEDOM IS."WONDERBAR"— The clean, pure air of freedom outside the Iron Curtain has wrought a miracle in Katalin Karady and Oliver Lantos, who show none of the effects of their ordeal as they pose here in front of an Austrian castle in the Allied zone of Austria after their flight from Hungary. They walked and crawled more than 40 miles, over mine fields and through barbed wire, braving machine guns and bloodhounds to find the chink in the Iron Curtain that was their gateway to freedom.

In another article, Katalin Karady explained why she escaped Hungary:

Katalin Karady, the Hungarian Rita Hayworth, said today she had fled through the Iron Curtain because "life became unbearable for me anymore in Hungary," The green-eyed, red-haired actress made her successful escape from Hungary Into Austria last Tuesday. After several days rest she was ready to talk of life in her native land.

Her adventurous trip took her from Budapest through minefields, barbed wire and the Soviet Zone of Austria to safety of the American zone of this country. She told reporters the "entire cultural life and activity in Hungary is controlled by the communist party. Artists who are not members of the party have hardly any channel under the present circumstances to get a leading role on the stage or in the movies," she continued. "I, myself, belonging to the large number of persons who are constantly under police supervision, was only once given a minor part in a silent movie since the end of the war. Besides postal censorship and other restrictions imposed on me, all my stage contracts had to be approved first by the ministry of education."

In pre-war times, Katalin Karady was the stage ideal of the Hungarian public. In the last few years, she had been able to find employment only as a radio singer and in floorshows. Even then, she said, "All my songs and the manuscripts of my recitals had to be approved first by the censorship department." Miss Karady’s chance to escape came when she was offered an engagement in a town close to the Austrian border. With her maid and Oliver Lantos, a noted Hungarian radio singer, she left Budapest Feb. 20 for her scheduled appearance and then made a night-time dash across the border Into Austria

There is another version of how she escaped: she rode across the border in a car driven by one Zoltan Vas and bribed a Russian border guard.

Katalin Karady was not allowed to immigrate to the United States on questionable grounds but first traveled to Switzerland, Belgium, and eventually moved to Brazil in 1953. Her films were banned in Hungary until 1978.

Interestingly, in August 1961, President John F. Kennedy’s brothers, U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy unsuccessfully appealed to the U.S. State Department to issue her a visa. The FBI investigated Katalin Karady on various occasions and in an internal memorandum in March 1963, there is this comment: “Subject, Hungarian born, aged 48, is former well-known actress in Hungary. Numerous allegations have been received in the past indicating subject to have been a communist collaborator […] Subject ‘escaped’ from Hungary in 1951 under unusual circumstances.”

She remained in Brazil until 1968, when she finally immigrated to the United States. She settled in New York and died there on February 8, 1990. Her ashes were brought back to Hungary. There was a memorial service at the St. Stephen’s Basilica and she was buried in the ‘artists’ plot” in Farkarseti cemetery in Budapest.

In March 2004, Katalin Karady was awarded a posthumous award as “Righteous Among the Nations” from the Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Israel in recognition of her “courageous acts” during World War Two. Among them was,

In the winter of 1944, during the Arrow Cross reign of terror, Katalin Karády saved a group of about 20 Jewish children from being murdered on the bank of the Danube. She bribed the Arrow Cross men guarding the children and took the children to her own villa in the neighborhood called Városmajor. She hid them in the cellar and provided them with food. After the capital was liberated, Karády searched for the surviving relatives of the children so that she could reunite them.

For more information in English, visit the Wikipedia Katalin Karady entry.

For an excellent, well-researched article, see David Frey, "Marta Hari or the Body of the Nation? Interpretations of Katalin Karady," Hungarian Studies Review, Vol. XLI, Nos. 1-2 (2014) http://epa.oszk.hu/00000/00010/00049/pdf/EPA00010_hsr_2014_089-106.pdf (last viewed July 2016)

June 14, 2016

"Little Caesar" in the Cold War: Edward G. Robinson’s 1965 Radio Appeal for Radio Free Europe

Another famous actor, who made a radio appeal in 1965 to support Radio Free Europe, was Edward G. Robinson, who was born in Bucharest, Romania on December 12, 1893 under the name Emanuel Goldenberg. He and his family immigrated to the United States in 1903.

He began his acting career in the Yiddish Theater District in 1913 and made his Broadway debut in 1915  He appeared in 40 Broadway plays and over 100 films during a 50-year career but perhaps his most famous film in which he appeared was “Little Caesar.” – “A 1931 Warner Brothers crime film that tells the story of a hoodlum who ascends the ranks of organized crime until he reaches its upper echelons. Little Caesar was Edward G. Robinson's breakthrough role and immediately made him a major film star.”

Listen to Edward G. Robinson’s 1965 radio Public Service Announcement (PSA) for contributions to support Radio Free Europe.


This is Edward G. Robinson. This year will mark Radio Free Europe’s Fifteenth Anniversary. Since 1950, RFE has been broadcasting the message of Freedom and Hope to the East Europeans behind the Iron Curtain.

It all began with an ideal that people living under Communism should have a chance to hear the truth about the Free World and their own countries. But, on a people to people basis, not from a government agency. So Radio Free Europe was established: a private radio station supported by you, by the contributions of American citizens.

Today, RFE is on the air breaking the Communist monopoly of information in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. The Iron Curtain isn’t soundproof. Help RFE get through.

Please send your contributions today to the Radio Free Europe Fund, Box 1965, Mr. Vernon, New York.

Thank you.

Edward G. Robinson died in Los Angeles, California on January 26, 1973.

See the Wikipedia entry for more information about the life and acting career of Edward G. Robinson.

June 09, 2016

RFE/RL Russian Service Audio Archives -- Now Online

June 03, 2016

WASHINGTON -- RFE/RL welcomed the publication this week of an online, fully searchable database of audio programs produced over decades by its Russian Service, known as Radio Svoboda.
RFE/RL Editor in Chief Nenad Pejic called the initiative a “shining example of cooperation and commitment” among RFE/RL and its partners, the Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives (OSA) and the Hoover Institution Library & Archives.
Citing the extensive efforts of OSA to organize, preserve and afford public access to these historical materials, Pejic said, “Today, when Russians are again relying on RFE/RL and Radio Svoboda for credible news, these archived programs take on a new meaning.”
The archive includes more than 26,000 audio clips broadcast into the Soviet Union and Russian Federation by Radio Svoboda from 1953, the year the service was established in Munich, West Germany, to 1995, when RFE/RL moved from Munich to Prague, Czech Republic.
Highlights of the collection include news and political programs about the U.S.S.R. and the world as reported by distinguished émigré journalists, writers and historians, on-air readings of banned literary works and poetry recitals; and unique radio plays authored by such luminaries of Russian letters as Alexander SolzhenitsynViktor NekrasovJoseph BrodskyVladimir VoinovichAlexander Ginzburg, and Eugenia Ginzburg.
The archive also includes Radio Svoboda’s collection of samizdat, or clandestinely published materials that provided news about trials, imprisonments, and forbidden expressions of life behind the Iron Curtain; and talk shows that connected Soviet audiences with Russian exile culture.
Cooperation on the project started in 2014 with the intent, expressed by OSA, that providing free and unlimited on-line access to this collection of more than 10,000 hours of broadcasts would facilitate free and critical thinking, and encourage expanded research into Soviet era culture and politics. The Hoover Institution Archives provided support to Radio Svoboda journalists who digitized and described the contents of the Russian audio archive. The Hoover Archives then authorized OSA to complete the creation of metadata for the digitized audio and prepare the archive for publication online.
Public access to RFE/RL’s broadcast and corporate archives at the Hoover Institution has expanded significantly in recent years, with updated finding aids for both the broadcast and corporate archives now available in the Online Archive of California. Several parts of RFE/RL’s vast research archives, which are deposited at OSA, are now available for online research, including collections of RFE Information ItemsRFE/RL Situation ReportsRFE/RL Background ReportsRFE/RL Polish Underground Press, and Soviet and Russian Television Monitoring. OSA has also made available online parts of the pre-1971 corporate records of the Free Europe Committee (FEC), the legal predecessor of RFE/RL), including digital copies of encrypted Telex messages between FEC’s office in New York and RFE headquarters in Munich from 1960 to 1964.
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About RFE/RL
RFE/RL is a private, independent international news organization whose programs -- radio, Internet, television, and mobile -- reach influential audiences in 23 countries, including Russia, Ukraine, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the republics of Central Asia and the Caucasus. It is funded by the U.S. Congress through the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).
About the Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives
Established in 1995, the Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives (OSA) at Central European University (CEU) is both a repository of important collections, primarily related to the history of the Cold War and grave international human rights violations, and a laboratory of archival experiments on new ways of assessing, contextualizing, presenting, and making use of archival documents.
About the Hoover Institution Library & Archives
Founded by Herbert Hoover in 1919, the Hoover Institution Library & Archives are dedicated to documenting war, revolution, and peace in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. With nearly one million volumes and more than six thousand archival collections from 171 countries, the Hoover Institution supports a vibrant community of scholars and a broad public interested in the meaning and role of history.

Yankee Doodle Dandy, James Cagney, and Radio Free Europe

One of Hollywood’s legendary film and stage actors was James Cagney (1899 – 1986).  In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked him eighth among its list of greatest male stars of Classic Hollywood Cinema. In 1942, he won the Academy Award as best actor in the film Yankee Doodle Dandy. According to a Filmsite Movie Review: “Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) is one of Hollywood's greatest, grandest and slickest musicals. The nostalgic, shamelessly-patriotic, entertaining film also supported the war effort as it paid tribute in its mostly fictional story to a popular Irish/American entertainer and the grand American gentleman of the theatre in the early 20th century … Rather than tickets for its NY premiere, the studio sold war bonds and reportedly raised $5 million for the war effort.” 

Interestingly, Voice of America at one point began each daily broadcast with the song, "Columbia, The Gem of the Ocean," and throughout the day musical excerpts from the original American revolutionary song, "Yankee Doodle Dandy."

James Cagney made two national radio appeals for funds to support Radio Free Europe during the 1965 fund drive: one was for 30 seconds and the other for one minute. The Broadcasters for Radio Free Europe sponsored the radio appeals as a Public Service Announcements in the annual fund raising campaigns of the Crusade for Freedom and Radio Free Europe Fund. Other Hollywood personalities used in the 1965 campaign included Edward G. Robinson, Walt Disney, and Marlon

Here is James Cagney’s one-minute radio appeal:


Hello. This is James Cagney.

We in the United States have just been through an election year. We all had a voice in the outcome. A procedure we expect as our right.

But to the people of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria, the workings of our system stand in sharp contrast to the events in Moscow of last fall. A contrast that Radio Free Europe drew very clearly for it’s East European audiences.

This is the type of news and commentary Radio Free Europe provides for 80 million people behind the Iron Curtain to keep them completely informed and help them work for their own greater freedom.

Radio Free Europe is a private, nonprofit network. It depends on you, the American citizen, for it’s support.

The Iron Curtain isn’t soundproof.

Help Radio Free Europe get through.

Please send your contribution to the Radio Free Europe Fund, Box 1965, Mt. Vernon, New York.

Thank you.

The events in Moscow to which Cagney refers, was the ouster of Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.

Photo of James Cagney before the RFE microphone courtesy of the Hoover Institution, RFE/RL Collection, Stanford University.

June 06, 2016

Chains: A 1970 Television and Print Media Advertising Campaign for Radio Free Europe

In the wake of the 1967 public disclosure of CIA covertly financing Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, fundraising campaigns in support of RFE were eliminated in favor of information campaigns: “Following the temporary halt, the Advertising Council and Free Europe, inc. (parent organization of RFE) concluded that a  resumption of the campaigns was amply justified as a means of acquainting the general public with the aims and work of the organization. It was also concluded that future campaigns should be devoted to providing information and not to soliciting funds.” Below is one example of the 1970 Advertising Council’s public relations' efforts in behalf of RFE:

The advertising firm Foote, Cone & Belding created a 30 second television script and print advertisements for the 1979 campaign and sent them to Free Europe, Inc. for review and approval. The TV draft read:

In the Communist countries of East Europe he’s not encouraged to have a mind of his own.

The news is carefully censored so that when he’s old enough to think for himself he won’t be able to. There’s a whole generation of youngsters like him. To develop a mind of his own he needs the facts, news, world opinion.

He needs Radio Free Europe. For Information about East Europe and Radio Free Europe, write Box 1970, Mt. Vernon, New York.

J. Allan Hovey, Jr., Vice President, Free Europe, Inc., sent a memo to Free Europe Inc. President William Durkee, with these comments concerning the print advertisement headline: “He need a mind of his own.” Hove wrote,

This strikes me as misleading and presumptuous-sounding and potentially embarrassing. He of course already has a mind of his own, and all we can properly claim is to provide it some otherwise unavailable fuel. And thanks in part, if you will, to 20 years of RFE, he makes many judgments of his own – as witness the student protests, the opinion polls, etc. In my opinion the print material badly needs a new headline.

[T]he boy with the chain around his head. This is now being filmed…The more I think of it the less I think of it.

The material as submitted contained an amazing assortment of gimmickry, presumptuousness and naiveté, to say nothing of the kind of craftsmanship that permits typos, dangling participles, tautology, and sheer misstatement of fact.

Here are the storyboard and the actual 20 seconds television advertisement of the boy speaking Bulgarian and repeating Communist Party propaganda. “Down with imperialism. The Party never makes mistakes.” (The second line is not understandable under the narrator’s voice.)


The RFE approved print ad that appeared in local newspapers and national magazines such as Time, Esquire, and Life showed the boy with chains around his head and read:

He needs a mind of his own.

In East Europe, there’s a generation of youngsters like him.

He needs Radio Free Europe.

For information, write Box 1970, Mr. Vernon, N.Y:

Here are copies of the first graphic draft and a copy of the actual advertisement that appeared in Time magazine in November 1970:

In 1970, about 3,000 persons responded by letter to the advertising campaign and about 500 included contributions.

Photo and graphics courtesy of the RFE/RL Collection, Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

May 09, 2016

Sim Copans, Radio Free Europe, and Jazz over the Iron Curtain

According to Alan Michie's authoritative book on the early years of Radio Free Europe, Voices through the Iron Curtain, jazz was used as a propaganda weapon used by both sides of the Iron Curtain:

RFE in its early years contributed its quota of forbidden jazz in daily programs beamed to the younger listeners, although some of the exile broadcasters, brought up on mazurkas, polkas and waltzes, were inclined to doubt the assurances of their American advisers that jazz music would prove as infectious behind the Iron Curtain as it had been all around the world. But after Stalin's passing in 1953 the Communist regimes grudgingly lifted their taboo and their radio stations cautiously ventured to play whatever jazz records they had on file, mostly music of the 1920s and 1930s. By 1956, however, the appetite for jazz was so accepted that the regime radios boldly introduced hit tunes from the West. Radio Warsaw smartly had its records flown in from New York.

To counter this competition, RFE sharpened its own programs, and put on recognized Western jazz experts to provide the know-how that the Communists could not match. Simon Copans, an American authority who had lived many years in France and who conducted a jazz program on France's Radio Diffusion Francaise, was borrowed from that network to prepare a weekly record session, which in turn was translated and made available for broadcast by all of RFE's Voices. John Wilson's program, "The World of Jazz," broadcast regularly over New York City's WQXR radio station, was made available for rebroadcast over RFE, as were special jazz programs contributed by New York's radio station WNEW. 

Who was Simon (Sim) Copans?

Simon (Sim) Copans was born in Stamford Connecticut in 1912. In the 1930s, he lived and studied in France. He received a doctorate degree from Brown University in 1938. 

As an American soldier with the rank of captain, Sim Copans participated in landing of Normandy in June 1944 as a "radio officer" and then the liberation of Paris, where he remained after the war ended. 

Copans joined the Armed Forces Network (AFN) radio station in Paris producing jazz, gospel, and other programs for the American military community, which also could be heard by a growing French audience. He  also became associated with French radio station Paris Inter, renamed Radio Inter, eventually producing over 4,000 jazz programs "Panorama on American Jazz" heard Saturdays from noon to 1 pm. 

Coupons L:
Sim Copans also provided over 100 half-hour jazz program texts to Radio Free Europe's language services in Munich from October 1956 to June 1959. His program text "Jazz from Paris" in English was then translated into the respective Radio Free Europe languages for broadcasting. In December 1958, RFE music director John H. Wright wrote to Copans telling him that his programs were "going well" over the five RFE language programs.

He also wrote jazz scripts for the Voice of America and the BBC's "World of Jazz" programs.

He helped found an international jazz festival in 1976 in Souillac, France, that continues today. For information in English, including the program, about the upcoming Jazz Festival Sim Copans in Souillac, France, July 19 - 23, 2016, here is the link:

Sim Copans died in France in 2000 and remains a "legend" in France today for his promotion of Jazz and American Gospel music.

March 25, 2016

Otto Pick (1925-2016), Former Director Czechoslovak Service, Radio Free Europe, RIP.

Otto Pick died in Prague, Czech Republic March 21, 2016. He was 91 years old.

Otto Pick led a very productive and interesting life, including receiving a medal from the Queen of England.

Here are excerpts from a Radio Prague interview with him in 2013, in which he talks about his experiences at Radio Free Europe in Munich in the 1980s:

Professor Pick’s next post was in Munich, where, from 1983 to 1986, he headed the Czechoslovak section of Radio Free Europe, the American station that broadcast across the Iron Curtain through much of the Cold War period. It was not, he says, a positive experience.

“It was a very difficult job. I’ve had many jobs but it was probably the most difficult job I ever had. It was a very large service – about 80 people full-time, plus around 100 stringers around the world.

“I had never before had any experience of an émigré community. And émigré communities are extremely difficult. They live in a sort of vacuum. There you had these people living in Germany, being well provided for, very well-paid, free housing, free utilities and what have you, and half of them couldn’t speak German. Never learned.

“They were divided politically into right-wing and left-wing. Into refugees from 1948 and 1968. Czechs and Slovaks. Slovaks and Slovaks – I mean Czechoslovak Slovaks and Slovak Slovaks. Jews and anti-Semites.

“The atmosphere was very bad. I must admit this now – I was to some extent out of my depth, trying to keep this together.

“In fact, people here assure me, none of this was reflected in the output. The output was good, particularly the news output. There was a central newsroom which basically worked along BBC lines.”

Obviously Radio Free Europe was politically motivated. It was the Reagan era. Were there ever any occasions on which you disagreed politically with your bosses?

“Oh, yes. You see Radio Free Europe, then as now, is controlled ultimately in Washington by a board of governors. Of course when the Reagan administration came in, Reagan put his own people in. Well, some of these people were much more extreme than Reagan ever dreamt of.

“There was a lot of pressure, a lot of pressure to sack people, to limit the post-’68 refugees from broadcasting, things like that. Which I opposed.

“In the end the atmosphere wasn’t too good. I was skiing in Austria and got a phone call saying, will you come back? You’ve been appointed head of Radio Free Europe in London.

“I said, no way. Once I got away from Germany I’d have had no legal protection. If they’d sent me to London, they’d have sacked me the next week. In Germany I was protected by German labour laws. So I said, no way.

“In the end they paid me off and I left and joined the University of Munich.

The full 2013 program transcript, with the photo above, can be read at